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Kevin Sumlin discusses Arizona’s first day of spring practice

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The spring is all about evaluation for UA’s new coaching staff

The Kevin Sumlin era has begun.

The Arizona Wildcats started spring practice Monday, the first of several they will hold until their spring game on Saturday, April 14.

Here is what Sumlin had to say afterward. (Note that, as of now, Sumlin is not scheduled to speak with the media again until the spring game, so don’t expect much content until then.)

Kevin Sumlin talks about Arizona Football’s first day of spring practice & other things

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, March 19, 2018

How did the first day go?

Kevin Sumlin: “It was good to get outside and really coach these guys. We’ve had some meetings and some installation meetings within what the rules allow, but we really haven’t been on the field and with the ball.

“So we teach technique and really a longer individual-technique type practice because … we won’t go into full pads until Thursday. It’s a chance to get back on the field, and see what guys to do. There’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. It’s good.”

Now that you’ve had some more time to evaluate the roster, what stands out to you?

KS: “I don’t think we’ve had any time to evaluate the roster. I had an hour and a half today.”

Since you started here.

KS: “We still haven’t done it yet. I haven’t seen these guys play live on the field. So that evaluation is ongoing. This is really the beginning of it. That started really tonight.”

I don’t want to get dramatic on you, but can you feel there’s excitement from them (the players) that they’re ready to get going?

KS: “I don’t know. As coaches you’re just working. I thought they responded well. The first day at a new place, new coaches, they don’t know where to go, they don’t know what to expect, they don’t know anything. So I thought all in all for a new everything, I thought their energy level was great and they gave good effort and that’s all you can ask for right now.”

How does this compare to your last two first days?

KS: “They’re all different. They’re all different. Rules have changed a little bit in the fact that what’s happening and the preparation you can have now with meetings in the spring. They’re all a little bit different. The pace is different. It was a lot faster than the one at Houston, but these guys are willing and the attitude is great.”

What is the main thing you hope to accomplish this spring?

KS: “It’s evaluation. We’ve gotta come out of this spring with a good idea who are starting football team is, and being able to develop depth based on this group, and also based on who’s coming in in the summer. So really it’s a situation where we want to evaluate our players and evaluate our schemes based on what our guys can do. … That might be different April 14 than it is today based on what you see in practice.”

Do you believe in having a depth chart by the end of spring?

KS: “I’ll give you one and it doesn’t really mean anything. I’m serious. You have to do one for all these magazines and everything else. There will be one, but I wouldn’t put too much thought into it.”

How long will it take for the offense, for the playbook to become second nature?

KS: “I don’t know. We really do four installations. We’re on install one. Basically it matches the weeks. We’ll go this whole week with just what we put in. As I’ve said, because of those rules we’ve had probably nine meets, nine half-hour meetings going through those installs already. So for the most part today, it was pretty good and it should be based on the amount of time we’ve had with them. We’ll see. Typically I’ve sped up or slowed down based on what guys can grasp and how we’re working, particularly at quarterback. That dictates how far we can go. Because we still have summer time, those rules with those meetings, and we’ve got fall camp.”

Is it different for the offense and defense since the coordinator is the same?

KS: “I don’t know. I think there’s some carryover with Marcel (Yates) obviously but we’ve got some new guys too. So the communication is different … but I’ll have to look at the video and I think it’s an ongoing process so we’ll see where we are.”

Has it been it whirlwind to get to this point?

KS: “It’s slowed down. But in the beginning it was a lot of this (interviews) and not a lot of that (football). So now there’s a lot more of that. It’s why I’m here. To be on the grass is always a good thing. It’s a little chillier than I thought it would be, but it’s slowed down quite a bit. I actually know how to get home and to my parking spot here without navigation.”

(no one laughs at Sumlin’s joke)

“You guys gotta laugh, man”

How do you feel about the depth (at quarterback)? There’s not a lot of experience behind Khalil (Tate).

KS: “No, there’s not. But we’ve gotta find some guys and we’ve got some guys that are coming in here too. We’re not playing a game — I guess we have the spring game — but we’re not playing anyone else till next fall. So we’ve got guys out here that we can develop, and guys on the way.”

Is Keyshawn (Johnson) Jr. ready to go for spring?

KS: “I’m not going to give any injury updates.”

What did you learn about Khalil when you went back and watched film of last year?

KS: “I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t really watched a bunch of tape of him. This is the third time I’ve done this. I try not to watch as much tape of the previous year of anybody because I want a clean slate. I think to answer your question, that’s what the evaluation process is for. So I’m not swayed by what I’ve seen on tape … It’s what I told these guys on the first day, you’ve got a clean slate. For some of you, that’s awful news because you think you’ve arrived, and for some of you that’s great news because I don’t know what you can do. We kind of kept it that way. That’s why the evaluation process live is more important to me, and his growth live. Because on tape it’s one thing but what we’re asking him to do might be a different thing.”

What attributes would you like to see a quarterback have to thrive in your system?

KS: “I mean, we’ve been able to do a lot of different things. Noel (Mazzone)’s just done a really nice job tailoring the offense to what a guy can do. We’ve won with different kind of guys all over the places. Obviously there’s Johnny (Manziel), but there’s Case Keenum, a 6-foot guy who can throw it all over the place. And then we’ve had all types of different guys. So for where we are right now, we’re pretty flexible offensively. And we want (Tate) to be smart, we want him to be a great decision-maker, and a great communicator and obviously to be accurate. So it doesn’t matter if he’s 5-11 or he’s the guy that just walked by that played for me at Minnesota who’s 6-5. It doesn’t really matter. They’ve all been successful. If they have those three things, that’s all we’re looking for.”

As far as your assistant coaches, what went into placing who were and picking that staff?

KS: “Number one, teachers. You gotta be a great teacher. Number two, I wanted to have a staff that was well-rounded, meaning they’re great teachers, they know football, and were great recruiters. At this level now, you can’t have it like old days — one guy coach, a couple coordinators did this, and you had a couple guys known as recruiters. I think in this situation, we can’t be successful that way. And I think knowledge of the region and our recruiting areas is going to be important. Obviously, we’ve got some contacts from my previous place with Arizona, the Phoenix area, and California was important to us and we have some hires there in Demetrice Martin and (John) Rushing, so I think coming from Texas we’ve got a lot of ties there and we have four or five guys from Vegas on this team. So I think our primary recruiting areas are important but also being a great teacher. Those guys are hard to find, but I think this is an experienced staff in particular with some guys with a good mix that have been in the Pac-12 before. Half the staff, a third of it, has been in the Pac-12 at one point or another. I’m so old I was in the Pac-10 as a [graduate assistant] so it’s a great (coaching staff). We’ve been getting along and doing a lot of great things.”

You also retained Chuck Cecil as an analyst. What do you think he brings?

KS: “He’s got great recognition. Anybody that can walk out there and see their name on the board, every where you walk, he’s a great representative of the university and he’s really a legend. And so guys can talk to him about what life’s all about. You want to play at the next level? You want to play how he played the game? He gives a different a look at things that maybe some other guys who have just been in college football don’t know.”